Lesson #2: Coach for the Right Rationale – Lessons from a Youth Baseball Coach

August 6, 2009


It is essential that every baseball coach, especially at the youth level, begins coaching for the appropriate reasons. Every youth baseball coach should have three primary goals: 1) increase every player’s skill set so they are better players by the end of the season; 2) strive to make every player’s time with the team a fun experience; and 3) be fair in both positions played and innings played. If a coach at the youth level can accomplish these three things, the season was successful.

As I previously stated in Lesson #1, it is not where the player starts, but where he, or she, finishes. It is a coach’s duty to make each player better. I have run into many coaches that use their talented players to win ballgames, but don’t necessarily put effort into improving the skills of any of their players. As an example, if a baseball player has problems getting hits, some coaches will put that player at the end of the line-up and only have them bunt. So, instead of spending the extra practice time trying to make the player a better hitter, the coach will put the player up there to bunt and hope for a walk. Also, these coaches will often times try to hide the player defensively. In other words, they will try to place the player in a position where they will not have to field a ball. This cheats the players and lessens the sport. This sort of thing harkens back to the old days when coaches assumed players either “had it” or didn’t. Those that didn’t played the minimum and sat on the end of the bench. But with today’s coaching techniques we know that players, given the chance, can improve; they can learn to hit and field, given the proper instruction and the opportunity. And they merit that opportunity.

A lot of coaches start coaching youth baseball for two reasons: 1) for the ability to play their son or daughter for as many innings as they like at the positions they want and 2) to win baseball games. This is the wrong rationale. For some reason, there are a number of coaches at the youth level that only care about winning baseball games. Why? Maybe because these coaches feel like failures if they lose and, in addition to that, most youth leagues will pick the coach with the best overall record to coach the all-star team for that level of play. So, it comes down to prestige; it is more prestigious to win ballgames than to teach baseball. And it then comes down to wisdom and experience. How big of a deal is it to be the country’s youth baseball coach with the most wins (woo woo!), in contrast with being a coach who truly watches out for all of his players and their personal development?

As a result, I am requesting that all coaches buck the system. I had a very simple system. I coached during the regular season with the purpose of teaching baseball. I coached tournament games to win. But, even when attempting to win, I wanted players to get fair playing time. Why shouldn’t all the players on a team be able to participate in the challenge of play-off baseball?

I am also asking leagues to buck the system; leagues should make it more prestigious to teach baseball than to win ballgames. Winning is as important to me as it is to anyone else. But there is a right way and a wrong way. Youth level coaches should not have winning as their top priority. Prestige is established at the group level; leagues establish what is prestigious within their ranks. If youth baseball leagues started recognizing their coaches as teachers, then teaching baseball would become prestigious, and a new trend in youth coaching would begin.

This is the second lesson, of many, contained within the article “Lessons from a Youth Baseball Coach”. All of the lessons can be found at Baseball Armory – “The Baseball Blog”. Baseball Armory – “The Baseball Blog” is sponsored by Baseball Armory. Baseball Armory is an online store that contains quality Akadema softball and baseball gear. Akadema produces high quality baseball and softball equipment, including infield and outfield gloves, catcher’s mitts, metal and wood bats, cleats, turf shoes, batting gloves, sunglasses, apparel, equipment bags, glove care products, and miscellaneous baseball and softball accessories.

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